GOSPEL OF PETER
From-The Apocryphal New Testament
M.R. James-Translation and Notes
Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1924
The early testimonies about this book have been set forth already. The present fragment
was discovered in 1884 in a tomb at Akhmimin Egypt. The manuscript in which it is a little book
containing a portion of the Book of Enoch in Greek, this fragment on the Passion and another, a
description of Heaven and Hell, which is either (as I now think) a second fragment of the Gospel,
or a piece of the Apocalypse of Peter. It will be given later under that head.
We have seen that the Gospel of Peter is quoted by writers of the latter end of the second
century. It has been contended that Justin Martyr also used it soon after the middle of that
century, but the evidence is not demonstrative. I believe it is not safe to date the book much
earlier than A. D. 150.
It uses all four canonical Gospels, and is the earliest uncanonical account of the Passion
that exists. It is not wholly orthodox: for it throws doubt on the reality of the Lord's sufferings,
and by consequence upon the reality of his human body. In other words it is, as Serapion of
Antioch indicated, of a Docetic character.
Another characteristic of it is its extremely anti-Jewish attitude. Blame is thrown on the
Jews wherever possible, and Pilate is white-washed .
In this case I give, in Roman and Arabic figures respectively, a double division into
sections and verses. The first is that of Armitage Robinson, the second that of Harnack.
I. 1 But of the Jews no man washed his hands, neither did Herod nor any one of his
judges: and whereas they would not 2 wash, Pilate rose up. And then Herod the king commanded
that the Lord should be taken into their hands, saying unto them: All that I commanded you to do
unto him, do ye
II. 3 Now there stood there Joseph the friend of Pilate and of the Lord, and he, knowing
that they were about to crucify him, came unto Pilate and begged the body of Jesus for burial.
And Pilate sending unto Herod, begged his body. 5 And Herod said: Brother Pilate, even if
none had begged for him, we should have buried him, since also the Sabbath dawneth; for it is
written in the law that the sun should not set upon one that hath been slain (murdered).
III. 6 And he delivered him unto the people before the first day of (or on the day before
the) unleavened bread, even their feast. And they having taken the Lord pushed him as they ran,
and said: Let us hale the Son of God, now that 7 we have gotten authority over him. And they
put on him a purple robe, and made him sit upon the seat of judgement, 8 saying: Give righteous
judgement, thou King of Israel. And one of them brought a crown of thorns and set it upon the 9
Lord's head; and others stood and did spit in his eyes, and others buffeted his cheeks; and others
did prick him with a reed, and some of them scourged him, saying With this honour let us honour
(or at this price let us value) the son of God.
IV. 10 And they brought two malefactors, and crucified the 11 Lord between them. But
he kept silence, as one feeling no pain. And when they set the cross upright, they wrote 12
thereon: This is the King of Israel. And they laid his garments before him, and divided them
among themselves and 13 cast the lot upon them. But one of those malefactors reproached them,
saying: We have thus suffered for the evils which we have done; but this man which hath become
the 14 saviour of men, wherein hath he injured you? And they were wroth with him, and
commanded that his legs should not be broken, that so he might die in torment.
V. 15 Now it was noonday, and darkness prevailed over all Judaea: and they were
troubled and in an agony lest the sun should have set, for that he yet lived: for it is written for
them that the sun should not set upon him that hath been 16 slain (murdered). And one of them
said: Give ye him to drink gall with vinegar: and they mingled it and gave him 17 to drink: and
they fulfilled all things and accomplished 18 their sins upon their own heads. And many went
about with 19 lamps, supposing that it was night: and some fell. And the Lord cried out aloud
saying: My power, my power, thou hast forsaken me. And when he had so said, he was taken
20 And in the same hour was the veil of the temple of Jerusalem rent in two.
VI. 21 And then they plucked the nails from the hands of the Lord and laid him upon the
earth: and the whole earth was shaken, and there came a great fear on all.
22 Then the sun shone forth, and it was found to be the ninth 23 hour. And the Jews
rejoiced, and gave his body unto Joseph to bury it, because he had beheld all the good things
which 24 he did. And he took the Lord and washed him and wrapped him in linen and brought
him unto his own sepulchre, which is called the Garden of Joseph.
VII. 25 Then the Jews and the elders and the priests, when they perceived how great evil
they had done themselves, began to lament and to say: Woe unto our sins: the judgement and the
end of Jerusalem is drawn nigh.
26 But I with my fellows was in grief, and we were wounded in our minds and would have
hid ourselves; for we were sought after by them as malefactors, and as thinking to set 27 the
temple on fire. And beside all these things we were fasting, and we sat mourning and weeping
night and day until the Sabbath.
VIII. 28 But the scribes and Pharisees and elders gathered one with another, for they had
heard that all the people were murmuring and beating their breasts, saying: If these very great
signs have come to pass at his death, behold how 29 righteous he was. And the elders were afraid
and came unto 30 Pilate, entreating him and saying: Give us soldiers that we (or they) may watch
his sepulchre for three days, lest his disciples come and steal him away and the people suppose 31
that he is risen from the dead, and do us hurt. And Pilate gave them Petronius the centurion with
soldiers to watch the sepulchre; and the elders and scribes came with them unto 32 the tomb, and
when they had rolled a great stone to keep out (al. together with) the centurion and the soldiers,
then all 33 that were there together set it upon the door of the tomb; and plastered thereon seven
seals; and they pitched a tent there and kept watch.
IX. 34 And early in the morning as the Sabbath dawned, there came a multitude from
Jerusalem and the region roundabout to see the sepulchre that had been sealed.
35 Now in the night whereon the Lord's day dawned, as the soldiers were keeping guard
two by two in every watch, 36 there came a great sound in the heaven, and they saw the heavens
opened and two men descend thence, shining with (lit. having) a great light, and drawing near
unto the sepulchre. 37 And that stone which had been set on the door rolled away of itself and
went back to the side, and the sepulchre was
X. 38 opened and both of the young men entered in. When therefore those soldiers saw that, they
waked up the centurion and the elders (for they also were there keeping 39 watch); and while they
were yet telling them the things which they had seen, they saw again three men come out of the
sepulchre, and two of them sustaining the other (lit. the 40 one), and a cross following, after
them. And of the two they saw that their heads reached unto heaven, but of him that 41 was led
by them that it overpassed the heavens. And they 42 heard a voice out of the heavens saying:
Hast thou (or Thou hast) preached unto them that sleep? And an answer was heard from the
cross, saying: Yea.
XI. 43 Those men therefore took counsel one with another to go and report these things
unto Pilate. And while they yet thought thereabout, again the heavens were opened and a 45 man
descended and entered into the tomb. And they that were with the centurion (or the centurion
and they that were with him) when they saw that, hasted to go by night unto Pilate and left the
sepulchre whereon they were keeping watch, and told all that they had seen, and were in great
agony, saying: Of a truth he was the son of God.
46 Pilate answered and said: I am clear from the blood of 47 the son of God, but thus it
seemed good unto you. Then all they came and besought him and exhorted him to charge the
centurion and the soldiers to tell nothing of that they had 48 seen: For, said they, it is expedient
for us to incur the greatest sin before God, rather than to (and not to) fall into 49 the hands of the
people of the Jews and to be stoned. Pilate therefore charged the centurion and the soldiers that
they should say nothing.
XII. 50 Now early on the Lord's day Mary Magdalene, a disciple (fem.) of the
Lord-which, being afraid because of the Jews, for they were inflamed with anger, had not
performed at the sepulchre of the Lord those things which women are accustomed to do unto
them that die and are 51 beloved of them-took with her the women her friends and 52 came unto
the tomb where he was laid. And they feared lest the Jews should see them, and said: Even if we
were not able to weep and lament him on that day whereon he was 53 crucified, yet let us now do
so at his tomb. But who will roll away for us the stone also that is set upon the door of the tomb,
that we may enter in and sit beside him and perform 54 that which is due? for the stone was
great, and we fear lest any man see us. And if we cannot do so, yet let us cast down at the door
these things which we bring for a memorial of him, and we will weep and lament until we come
unto our house.
XIII. 55 And they went and found the sepulchre open : and they drew near and looked in
there, and saw there a young man sitting in the midst of the sepulchre, of a fair countenance and
clad in very bright raiment, which said unto them: 56 Wherefore are ye come? whom seek ye?
not him that was crucified? He is risen and is departed; but if ye believe it not, look in and see the
place where he lay, that he is not here: for he is risen and is departed thither whence he was sent.
57 Then the women were affrighted and fled.
XV. 58 Now it was the last day of unleavened bread, and many were coming forth of the
city and returning unto their 59 own homes because the feast was at an end. But we, the twelve
disciples of the Lord, were weeping and were in sorrow, and each one being grieved for that
which had befallen 60 departed unto his own house. But I, Simon Peter, and Andrew my brother,
took our nets and went unto the sea: and there was with us Levi the son of Alphaeus, whom the
Lord (For Fragment II see Apocalypse of Peter.)
Scanned and Edited by
Northwest Nazarene College, 1995